Tag Archives: making the ask

Just Bag It

The other day I got an email from a local nonprofit organization announcing “an amazing opportunity.” That certainly piqued my interest – for a few seconds.

What was this amazing opportunity? Well, the email directed me to go to one of two branches of a major supermarket chain. Once there, I was to buy a special-edition reusable grocery bag. And if I did that by December 31 – voila! – the nonprofit would receive a dollar.

This is what some people refer to as a “win-win.” I’ve come to be wary whenever the phrase win-win is used. One side, it seems to me, inevitably wins more from a win-win than the other side. That’s certainly true in this case, and it’s not the nonprofit that’s doing the victory lap. Continue reading

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Naming the Number

A few years ago I was the chair of a nonprofit organization that was urgently raising money for a new building.

As part of that effort I called an affluent donor and close friend named Bill. I explained the need, and I noted that the building was to be named after a man we both deeply admired. Bill said that he of course would like to help. Then he added, “And what magnitude of gift, may I ask, would appropriately signify my affection for you, my respect for the honoree, and my support for the program?”

I told Bill that a number with five digits would suffice. And a check for $10,000 arrived two days later. Continue reading

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Stories, Not Bullet Points

We all tell stories, though not necessarily well.

I like to think I’m better at it than most, but my too-deliberate-and-full-of-detail style doesn’t work with everyone. It particularly bugs my friend Mary. On more than one occasion she’s interrupted my meandering narrative and said, in total deadpan, “OK, Al. Now cut to the chase!

But talented or not, we all persist in telling stories. We describe what happened when the cop pulled us over on our way to work. We talk about how we nearly rode our bike into a moose (seriously — this happened to me over the weekend), or describe how our extended family reacted when a bat flew into the dining room, or recount how we turned on the t.v. just in time to see the game-winning overtime goal in the Stanley Cup. (“I just kinda had a feeling!”) We give the blow-by-blow of an argument at work, and we talk about how we let our boss know that we’d taken another job. (“What a look on his face!”) We tell stories about our kids, and movies, and books, and, well, everything. Continue reading

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Making “The Ask” For the Faint of Heart

So here’s the scene:

You’re approaching a donor for a gift to your nonprofit organization. She responds enthusiastically and wants to help with the project.

According to conventional wisdom, this is when you ask her for a specific dollar amount: “Mary, we’d like you to consider a gift of $10,000.”

But this is one of those times when I think conventional wisdom has it wrong. Continue reading

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